Six months on from the launch of Land Registry’s award-winning Property Alert service, more than 12,000 people have signed up to our free service which gives you an early warning of suspicious activity on a property.
Alasdair Lewis, Director of Legal Services, said: “We introduced Property Alert to help people to protect their most valuable asset – their home. We’re glad that Property Alert has proved so popular. However, there are still many homeowners who are unaware of the risk of property fraud and how to protect themselves so we are asking people to share our advice and video with their friends and family to spread the word.”
How could Property Alert help against fraud?
We had a case where Mr Q rented out his property using letting agents while he was living overseas. His letting agents were approached by someone claiming to have bought the property – so they contacted Mr Q. He then called our property fraud line and it was found that an application to transfer his property into the name of a buyer had been received.
We also spotted discrepancies between Mr Q’s signature and previously scanned documents, so we sent a letter to the buyer’s solicitor requesting confirmation of the steps taken to verify Mr Q’s identity. It was quickly confirmed that Mr Q had not sold his property and his solicitor contacted the police.
As we hadn’t received sufficient evidence from the buyer’s solicitor to verify the signature of Mr Q, we cancelled the transfer application and the sale wasn’t registered.
If Mr Q had signed up for our Property Alert service he would have received an email alert when Land Registry first received notification that a transfer of ownership would be arriving.
What is property fraud?
Property fraud can happen in many ways. Fraudsters may steal someone’s identity and attempt to acquire ownership of a property by using forged documents. The fraudsters could then raise money by mortgaging the property without the owner’s knowledge – disappearing with the money.
In the last 5 years, Land Registry has stopped fraud on properties worth more than £66 million. In a recent case, two fraudsters managed to pocket £50k by selling an empty home they didn’t own. We spotted the fraud before it was registered but the fraudsters got away with the money and are still wanted by police.
How does Property Alert work?
- You’ll need to set up an online account with Land Registry which is free – www.gov.uk/propertyfraud
- You’ll be able to monitor up to ten properties. Email alerts will be sent when Land Registry receives an application to change the register as well as for official searches. You can then judge whether or not the activity is suspicious and if you should seek further advice
- People who are not online can also sign up for Property Alert by calling 0300 006 0478
What are the properties most likely to be at risk?
- Rented properties – for example where the landlord lives elsewhere, a tenant might try to mortgage or sell the property without the landlord’s knowledge
- Empty properties – such as where the owner lives abroad or is in a care home
- Where there are family disputes. For example, in a relationship break-down someone could try and mortgage a property without their partner knowing
- Properties without a mortgage
What else can you do to protect your property?
- Make sure your property is registered. If you become an innocent victim of fraud and suffer financial loss as a consequence, you may be compensated
- Once registered, ensure Land Registry has up-to-date contact details so we can reach you easily. You can have up to three addresses in the register including an email address and/or an address abroad. The more information you provide, the more chance we have of reaching you if we need to
- Owners can make a request to have a restriction entered on their property. This is designed to help prevent forgery by requiring a solicitor or conveyancer to certify they are satisfied that the person selling or mortgaging the property is the true owner
More property fraud advice is available from www.gov.uk/propertyfraud